When to Salvage and When to Toss Mouldy Food

Who hasn’t looked at a block of cheese or a loaf of bread that is showing signs of mould and wondered if it is still safe to eat? Mould is microscopic fungi that can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems—a few also produce mycotoxins, a poisonous fungal substance. The bacteria that could be growing along with the mould could also cause food poisoning. Most food items with mould should be tossed immediately (yes, get rid of the bread with the small green, fuzzy patch, as well as funky luncheon meat, cooked pasta, soft fruits—tomatoes, peaches—soft cheeses, dairy products and any condiments).

However, there are a few foods that can still be consumed safely if you spot mould, such as hard cheese (cheddar), cheese made with mould (blue), firm fruits and vegetables and hard salami and dry-cured hams. (Just scrub mould off the meat’s surface. It’s normal for these shelf-stable products to have surface mould.)

To salvage cheese, fruits and vegetables, cut off 1 inch around or below the mould spot. Keep the knife out of the mould so you don’t cross-contaminate the rest of the food.

How to protect food from mould

• Cover food you want to stay moist, such as cut fruits and vegetables.
• Empty contents of opened cans into food-safe containers and refrigerate.
• Use leftovers as soon as possible (three days).

How to handle food with mould

• Don’t sniff mouldy food. This can cause respiratory trouble.
• Discard food in a covered trash or recycling bin immediately.
• Clean the area of the refrigerator or pantry where the food was stored.
• Check nearby items for mould.

– Robin Stevenson, CF‘s Senior Editor

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